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Features of learning to the instrumental skill in rats with different social experience and hierarchical status


E.P. Murtazina – Ph.D. (Med.), Leading Research Scientist, P.K. Anochin Institute of Normal Physiology (Moscow)
I.S. Matuylko – Student, Biological Faculty, Lomonosov Moscow State University
B.V. Zhuravlev – Dr.Sc. (Med.), Professor, Head of Laboratory, P.K. Anokhin Institute of Normal Physiology (Moscow)
I.O. Lazarev – Student, Medical Faculty, A.I. Yevdokimov Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry

The aim of this study was to identify the relationships between social experience and the hierarchical status of the rats in the groups with the successfulness of their learning complex instrumental skill to choose the conditional signals and reinforcements. Adult male Wistar rats were divided into four groups with 5 animals in each, whereas 11 rats were kept isolated in the individual boxes. After 24-hours of food and water deprivation rats of all groups were placed into Rat Touch Screen Chamber (Lafayette Instrument, USA) where had to learning to the instrumental skill to choose conditional signals followed by eating and drinking reinforcement. After 11 learning sessions, previously isolated rats were united into two groups with 5 and 6 in each, with consequent learning along with the other four groups. Before and while learning, as well as after socialization of isolated rats evaluation of hierarchic structure by identifying dominant and subdominant animals in the groups was performed. Analysis of hierarchic structure in the groups was based on an assessment of animals` competitive activity towards one drinker after 24 hours of water deprivation. It was shown that isolated rats demonstrated deceleration of the learning process in comparison to the rats kept in the groups. Two types of the hierarchical structure were revealed during the experiment: monodominant and polydominant. There were also found the connections between the types of hierarchic structure of animals in the groups, individual status of each rat and dynamic of learning process. Rats with the dominant position in the group appeared to succeed in the learning process more than subordinate rats. Dynamic of the learning process in the groups with polydominant structure had the same rate for all animals. There was also demonstrated an increase in the learning process rate in previously isolated rats after their socialization along with the formation of hierarchic structure in the groups.

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